Behaviors and traits have consequences in our lives. Everyone knows that. That’s why we discipline and guide our children in developing traits and behaviors that will bring them the greatest success and happiness. Through discipline, we steer our children away from several negative traits, such as entitlement…and for good reason. Researchers have recently mapped out the pathway from entitlement…and it doesn’t end well. In fact, the pathway leading from entitlement begins with chronic disappointment…and goes downhill from there. (Read Entitlement May Lead to Chronic Disappointment for more) When a person believes themselves better and more deserving than others (entitled), they enter a spiral of habitual behavior leaving them “frustrated, unhappy and disappointed with life.”
- First, entitlement creates feelings of disappointment. Entitled people have expectations that they deserve more than others. As a result, their expectations often remain unmet. After all, life is hard. In the words of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want.” Entitlement leads to disappointment in response to these unmet expectations and life’s hard knocks.
- Disappointment can lead to dissatisfaction and negative, even volatile, emotions like anger. Entitled people feel like they are not getting the good things they deserve, the good things to which they are entitled. Once again, “you can’t always get what you want….” In anger at not having their sense of entitlement satisfied, they lash out at others verbally or physically. Of course, this pushes people away. The entitled person may suffer the pain of rejection and isolation along with their disappointment.
- To escape the pain of these negative emotions, entitled people reassure themselves of their specialness. They reinforce their feelings of superiority, bringing temporary relief from the disappointment and other negative emotions. Unfortunately, it is only a matter of time until they return to step #1 and begin the cycle again.
As you can imagine, a sense of entitlement can make your children miserable; a sense of entitlement can make your family life miserable. Who wants to live in a home filled with entitled people constantly experiencing disappointment and anger in response to perceived unmet expectations of superiority and deserving? Not me. We want a family filled with non-entitled people. What can we do to limit a sense of entitlement in our families? Begin with the Rolling Stones by teaching, “You can’t always get what you want….” Then, add these three ideas into the mix:
- Practice gratitude. It’s difficult to feel chronic disappointment while noticing all the good things people do around us. And, a grateful person gains the realization that other people and their contributions are important…maybe even more important than the “almighty me.” Begin practicing gratitude in your family by modeling it. Take time to notice what other family members do for you and your home. When you notice it, acknowledge it. Let “thank you” and “I appreciate your help” become common phrases in your household.
- Recognize and reward humility. You can encourage humility by modeling it. One way to model humility is by expressing gratitude. You can also encourage humility by serving. Serve one another. Offer to get your spouse or child a drink when you go to the kitchen during commercials. Help clean the house. Willingly do the “dirty jobs” around the house with a smile. Ask for help when you need it. Allow others to serve by asking ask for help even when you don’t necessarily need it. Serve those outside the family as well. Feed the homeless. Visit a nursing home. Shovel the neighbor’s driveway. You get the idea. Gratitude and service contribute to humility. Humility negates entitlement.
- Praise effort and hard work. Success and opportunity arise from hard work, not because we are entitled. Accomplishment and recognition result from effort, not our entitlement. Recognize your family members’ effort and acknowledge that effort. Even when that effort has not led to public reward, praise the effort. Let effort and hard work become its own reward.
These three practices will help your family learn the rest of the wisdom from the Rolling Stones: “You can’t always get what you want…but if you try sometimes, you might just find, you get what you need!”